“The best way I have always put it is: If you wake up in the morning, and you have cancer and you don’t feel well, you can call into work and say ‘Hey, I have cancer, I don’t feel well,’ and everyone understands. You are told to rest and not worry. Now, try to call into work and say, ‘My anxiety is so bad. I can’t do this today.’ In that case, you are told to get it together and get to work. How is that possible? How are these two conditions, which are both life threatening, treated so differently?”
These words are from Krystal L. Racine, a mental health advocate, and she makes a few crucial points.
First, that the stigmas and misunderstandings around mental conditions like anxiety and depression and how such conditions affect people are real, and prevalent. And second, that anxiety and depression can be life-threatening. The danger posed by other diseases like cancer is widely accepted, but many people see mental disorders as less serious. That perception is not only wrong, it puts people living with anxiety and depression in even greater distress and danger.
Krystal wants to be a champion for this cause, to “stop the stigma and spread love,” in her own words. We were able to tag along with one of her efforts, a beautifully simple, vulnerable, and (to her) surprisingly successful project.
Working with an organization called The Denim Nation, Krystal dreamed up a way to illustrate the prevalence of anxiety and depression, the diversity of the people impacted by them, and the powerful emotional meaning that human connection can offer to men and women who live with such conditions. Watch the video above, and you’ll see Krystal in action: she stood in a popular public space in Boston, blindfolded, and invited people walking by to give her a hug if they ever suffered from anxiety or depression.
“I was blindfolded because I wanted to make others feel that this illness is blind; it affects anyone and everyone. I wasn’t even sure if it would work,” Krystal told us. But “within the first five minutes, there were so many people. I had no idea that I would be having people fall apart in my arms with stories that you never would think they would tell a blindfolded stranger in the middle of downtown Boston.”
Among the people who embraced and spoke with Krystal were a woman who survived Hurricane Harvey, a woman who needed a hug so badly she found it hard to let go, and a man who thanked Krystal but couldn’t quite bring himself to hug her, because of his anxiety.
Every part of it was meaningful for Krystal, because it helped achieve her goals. “Even the people who didn’t hug, they saw all the different people—old, young, black, white, Muslim, homeless, business suits, men and women—and saw that we are all the same. This fight is all of ours.” Bravo, Krystal.